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Spirit Guides To Hell? Shape-Shifting And The Power Of Animals Inverted

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Chapter Summary

Early modern European authority viewed witchcraft as transgression, and those who held power in the Spanish empire were no exception. Even when judged superstition, witchcraft was never seen as harmless in that those accused of witchcraft generally showed a very poor understanding of Christian authority's interpretation of nature and reality. Witches were said to transform on occasion into nonhuman animals. The nonhuman animals of the Spanish empire might be spirit guides to heaven as well as hell. From an Amerindian frame of reference, it was Spaniards who were guilty of inverting the order of nature itself. Amerindian and European shape-shifters challenged the notion, dear to individuals like Suárez and Descartes, that reason was an insurmountable divide between humans and other animals. Witches even forced a few members of the elite in authority to wonder just how rational and disinterested they were as they tortured witches to force them into submission.

Keywords: animals; hell; inverting; nonhuman animals; power; shape-shifters; Spanish empire; spirit guides; witchcraft; witches



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